Liberto brothers boost Hampton football into playoffs

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Saturday, October 31, 2020 | 11:01 AM


The Hampton football team made a valiant playoff push down the season’s home stretch.

Hampton won five of its final six games to finish third with a 5-2 record in the Greater Allegheny Conference.

The Talbots, making their first playoff appearance since 2015, landed the No. 8 seed in Class 4A and were scheduled to meet No. 1 Aliquippa on Oct. 30 in the WPIAL first round.

There were many outstanding individual efforts turned in by Hampton players in the regular season, including those by Joe and Christian Liberto.

Joe Liberto is a 5-foot-10, 188-pound senior running back/inside linebacker. Christian Liberto is a 5-10, 170-pound junior running back/outside linebacker.

Both were second-year starters in 2020; both battled injuries throughout the season.

Prior to the playoffs, Joe Liberto, 18, accounted for 321 yards and three touchdowns on 71 carries. His top performance came Oct. 2 in a 42-9 thrashing of Greensburg Salem when he rushed for 86 yards and scored twice on 19 carries.

“Joey is a running back that likes to run between the tackles,” coach Jacque DeMatteo said. “He’s a hard runner who plays physical. He brings a blue-collar running style to our run game.”

The 17-year-old Christian Liberto wrapped up the regular season with 268 yards and three scores on 48 rushing attempts. He rambled to 174 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries Sept. 18 in a 17-0 win against Armstrong.

“Both Christian and Joey have been dealing with lower-body injuries but continued to battle through them,” DeMatteo said. “Christian gives us a more athletic body and twitchiness in space. He has great football awareness.”

The Talbots utilized a running-back-by-committee approach on offense this season.

Jake Premick, a 5-7, 160-pound junior, Gage Galuska, a 6-3, 175-pound senior, and the Liberto brothers combined for 1,174 yards and 13 touchdowns in seven games.

Hampton rushed for 1,527 yards on 265 carries as a team, an average of 218 yards per contest.

Senior quarterback Matt DeMatteo completed 39 of 88 passes for 571 yards and four scores, with sophomore Benny Haselrig hauling in a team-high 22 receptions for 334 yards and two TDs.

“I think this has been our best season, by far, since 2014 when we when we were conference champs,” Joe Liberto said prior to the Talbots’ playoff game. “I think being 5-2 has given us a lot of momentum.

“Most of our starters play on both sides of the football, so we have a pretty well-rounded team. A big key to success this season (has been) staying ahead of the sticks on offense and minimizing mistakes.”

Christian Liberto said talent and diligence have made an impact.

“We have changed the culture in Hampton,” he said, “and we are only getting stronger thanks to the hard work that the players and the coaches have put in.”

The starters on the Talbots’ offensive line are sophomore center Ryan Mankevich, senior guard Dawson Dietz, junior guard Logan Schwartz and junior tackles Mike Bagley and John Morris.

It all starts up front, Christian Liberto said.

“I gotta give it to the big boys up front,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to run the offense like we have this season. We have so much chemistry dating back to youth football. We are all friends on and off the field, so we all have each other’s back and play for each other.”

This year wasn’t the first time the Liberto siblings competed as teammates. They have been on the same squads since their youth football days.

“We are like a dynamic duo,” said Joe Liberto, who began his own landscaping business at age 16. “Coach DeMatteo likes to call us the Malachi Brothers. Playing football with my brother Christian since our midget days has been pretty special considering we both play the same position.”

His brother agreed.

“It’s so special to play with my brother Joe,” he said, “especially since we have played together and been on the field together since the youth leagues. It’s going to be very different and sad without him next year.”

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